WASHINGTON—At the AUVSI Unmanned Systems conference, New Mexico-based startup Titan Aerospace unveiled the company’s prototypes for “atmospheric satellites”—autonomous unmanned aircraft powered purely by solar energy and capable of staying aloft at high altitude for up to five years. The first commercially manufactured long-endurance solar drone, the Solara 50, is under construction now and is expected to fly next year. A bigger drone, the Solara 60, will soon follow.
While solar-powered flight has been a reality since the early 1980s, Titan is the first company to work on commercially manufacturing solar-powered drones. And unlike some of the prototypes that have been flown by the established players in the aerospace and unmanned systems field, the Solara drones are based on well-worn technologies and simplicity in design.
If successful, Titan could change the economics of businesses that have previously depended on low-orbit satellites and allow for a persistent coverage closer to what satellites in geostationary orbit provide.